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The Crystal Fruit Bowl

by Ron Van Sweringen

It sat on the dining room table, for as long as eleven year-old Willie Jenkins could remember. Squarely in the center, out of harm’s way. His mother’s prized posession, a heavy crystal fruit bowl.

Sometimes Willie would lie on the floor, waiting for rays of sunlight to work their way through the window and onto the large table. Then a miracle would appear on the dining room ceiling. Pinpoints of light, reflected from the cut crystal pattern of the bowl, danced in every color of the raindow. Yellow, blue, violet and green, all shimmering in sunlit radiance.

The summer of 1934 was hot in Lima, Ohio, with precious little rain for the parched corn fields surrounding a white clapboard farmhouse where Willie Jenkins lived. In spring, Willie watched his father plow the rich black soil with his old tractor. After saying grace at the dinner table each evening, Willie’s father made a sombre request of the Lord, for a good harvest during these hard Depression times.

Willie, short for William Wadsworth Jenkins, was an only child. His mother almost died giving birth to him, and the doctor warned her that other children were out of the question. Willie’s constant companion was a large yellow dog named Buster. Willie’s father had found the puppy one day while fishing. He noticed a burlap sack snagged on a fallen tree branch in the river and on closer inspection, found a puppy’s head sticking through a hole in the sack. Four other pups had drowned in the sack.

At night Willie would lie in his bed with Buster beside him, watching clouds pass over the moon. Willie smiled when he felt Buster’s head gently rest on his legs, and he stroked the yellow dog before falling asleep.

One Friday morning in July, Willie woke up excited. It was a special day for him, he was going to be to be left entirely alone on the farm for the first time. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins were attending a neighbor’s funeral that morning and Willie’s father decided that Willie was old enough to manage the farm by himself for a few hours.

Willie beamed when his father put his hand on his shoulder and said, “Take good care of everything, son. You are in charge now.”

Willie and Buster stood on the porch watching the old pick-up truck disappear down the dusty road, his mother’s hand waving from its window. A feeling of excitement tinged with apprehension flowed over Willie. Suddenly, silence surrounded him and he could almost hear his heart beating. Buster sensed Willie’s apprehension and whined softly, looking up at the boy for reassurance.

“OK, Buster,” Willie said at last, “let’s get to our chores.”

An hour later Willie had finished his last chore, collecting eggs from the henhouse. He and Buster sat down on the grass under a huge oak tree that shaded the farm house. It was cool in the shade, and Willie lay back, looking at the leafy branches overhead. He was growing drowsy when Buster suddenly leapt over him barking wildly.

A pair of gray squirrels chasing each other across the lawn had proved too tempting for Buster, and he made a mad dash to cut them off. Willie joined in the chase, laughing and waving his arms at the two bewildered creatures. A moment later Willie’s laughter faded as the two squirrels with Buster in hot pursuit raced through the open door on the front porch. Suddenly Willie remembered his mother’s warning not to leave the door open and his stomach sank.

Willie was out of breath by the time he reached the hallway of the house. Buster and the two squirrels were nowhere to be seen. The sound of disaster came crashing out of the dining room as the trio appeared, racing back down the hall and out of the front door. Willie was stunned when he looked into the dining room. Chairs were overturned and his mother’s crystal fruit bowl was upside down on the floor, broken in two like a split watermellon.

It was Thanksgiving day and Willie Jenkins smiled, looking at the dining room table set for the holiday meal. His mother’s crystal fruit bowl sitting as usual in its special place. The sound of a television set and his grandchildren’s laughter drifted in from the living room. Willie remembered that day over forty years ago when he explained to his mother, through tear-filled eyes, what happened to the crystal fruit bowl.

He could still hear her words as she pulled him close and kissed his forehead. “Everything precious in life deserves to be loved honey, and every now and then a little Wonder Glue doesn’t hurt either.”

Copyright © 2009 by Ron Van Sweringen

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